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Parashat Eikev

08/07/2020 11:31:29 AM

Aug7

This week’s Torah portion opens as follows:
והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה
(Ekev) you hearken to these laws and do them, Adonai your God will keep the Covenant and kindness that he promised to your ancestors.

The word Ekev, at the beginning of the verse literally means “heel” but is understood differently by various commentators.

Targum Onkelos translates Ekev as “reward.”
“The reward for listening to the laws and doing them is…”
This implies that blessings are a reward for following God’s laws and curses are exacted as a result of inadherence.
 
Dissatisfied with this explanation, Ramban translates Ekev as “because.”
"Because you listen to the laws and do them…”
Ramban explains that Moses is describing the natural consequences of following the Torah - good things will happen as a matter of natural sequences of events. Adherence to Torah naturally results in good things happening to us.

The nuance here is the idea that reward and punishment are not exactly tit for tat, according to Ramban. Rather, in general, good things tend to happen when we have respect for the laws and bad things tend to happen when we don’t. Both explanations interpret Ekev as “on the heels of” or as describing a consequence of hearkening (or not hearkening) to Torah law.

Perhaps that is why one of the most popular symbols in Judaism is the image of the tablets, as described in next week's parasha. The Asert Hadibrot (ten statements) are inscribed on the tablets and remind us of basic Jewish concepts of belief and behavior.
 

I suspect that the image of the tablets is a reminder of the message of Parashat Ekev. We believe in a world designed by God, in which justice prevails and ultimately reward for righteousness is sure to come.

Wishing you and your family a peaceful and blessed Shabbat,
Rabbi Suson

Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781